Her Excellency Michele Alliot-Marie
Minister of Defense of France
It is an honor for me to open the 22nd International Workshop on Global Security and I would like to welcome to France all the participants who have come from North America and other parts of Europe for the occasion.
I would also like to thank Dr. Weissinger-Baylon who has been running the Workshop with charisma and intelligence for many years and understands how to bring together the main civilian and military actors for strategic affairs in a friendly and convivial setting. At a time when we confront multiple, lengthy and complex crises, this annual Workshop gives us a chance to exchange ideas on the major themes of security and defense.
BUILDING EUROPE'S DEFENSE
Today, references to the future European construction seem to elicit a certain amount of pessimism. Let me emphasize that France remains focused on pursuing and deepening a European security and defense policy (ESDP). Alongside the Atlantic Alliance, ESDP remains a necessary instrument both for our security and for confronting present and future crises.
Yet building Europe 's defense will require greater interest and effort on the part of Europeans, particularly in the capabilities area. France's ability and willingness to promote the European security and defense policy remains fully intact.
After the two consecutive "no" votes in France and the Netherlands on referendums on the European Constitution, Europe is undeniably weakened. Giving up or letting go are unthinkable. This attitude is not part of my frame of mind and it is not helpful. Since we started building Europe fifty years ago, we have encountered many difficulties, even major crises, along the way. They have always been overcome. As a matter of fact, some of the great milestones of the European adventure were sometimes borne out of these crises.
The current situation does not put an end either to our ability or our willingness to move forward. This is normal because our public opinions require that we move forward. You can depend on my personal engagement on this. While I recently campaigned actively for the "yes" to the referendum, I noted then that defense is THE area that generates consensus, as if our fellow Frenchmen were convinced that only a European defense could protect them against the current world dangers. It is also true that defense is the area in which Europe has most progressed during the past three years.
For several years now, we have initiated important political steps:
- We have created the European Defense Agency in June 2004.
- Following the horrific Madrid bombings, we have begun an early implementation of the clause of solidarity and defense against the terrorist threat. This clause is written formally in the Constitutional text and it is also a reality.
- The 1500-man tactical groups in which 25 nations of the European Union are participating, along with the European Gendarmerie Force, the civil-military cell, the European Security and Defense College , and the EU military operations are also major additional steps. They are concrete decisions that are being implemented and will not be questioned.
Being able to obtain such results in a short amount of time should encourage us in our determination to stay engaged. In a similar way, the large European programs continue despite the "no" vote on the referendum. In only a few years, we went from words to actions, from declarations to operations. France's commitment to ESDP remains intact but it does not decrease in any way the importance of our transatlantic partnership.
EU–NATO COOPERATION: AN INDISPENSABLE TOOL
In light of what is happening in the world today, cooperation between the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance is more than ever indispensable.
NATO Allies and European Union members face common challenges: a terrorist threat that is both enduring and becoming internationalized and an instability that is spreading to many parts of the world. The terrorist threat can potentially hit each and everyone of us. The risks of crises in Africa, in the Middle East, and in Southeast Asia are growing. These continents or sub-continents are likely to drive peoples to flee and emigrate to other countries by tens of thousands or even millions. We may be affected in our ways of life. These crises may also have an important impact on world growth.
Such challenges warrant a deeper cooperation similar to the model cooperation between the European Union and the Alliance in the Balkans, where both organizations conduct military operations alongside the European Union's civil and security engagement.
The European and American means of action for security and defense complement each other and are mutually reinforcing. Their role is to allow for consultation and for common action in the resolution of the many international crises. Given the diversity of the current threats and crises, it is important to consider the American and European actions as complementary. Each of us possesses specific assets, special links to some regional actors, and definite and different methods for solving crises.
Because of this diversity, we can choose to act, for a given situation, within the Alliance framework, within the European framework using NATO assets, or in an autonomous manner. These three different options make it possible for us to respond to crises at a time when crises and conflicts require a stronger reaction on our part and we need all available means at our disposal.
Any thought of competition between the European Union and NATO would be fruitless. It is a question of political timing and availability of resources. What matters is to provide greater flexibility when using military means, which are mostly national. This is why France supports the ongoing transformation of NATO structures in the direction of greater flexibility and reactivity. We intend to continue to be one of the main actors of this transformation.
RETHINKING EUROPE'S ARMAMENT BUDGETS
While the NATO and EU actions for dealing with crises are complementary in terms of their resources, Europeans must nonetheless add to the size and readiness of their contribution to international security. Let me say it very clearly: we must rethink our armament budgets.
With this objective in mind, Europe must reinforce its military capabilities, with the support of a solid and competitive defense industry.
European nations must increase their investment in the defense industry and defense technology. There is a European tendency-whether it is in the public opinion, unions or finance ministries-to view defense expenditures as money that would be wasted compared to other needs. This attitude does not take into account the fact that this particular sector represents a force of between 4 and 5 million people. European nations who spend about 160 billion euros yearly on defense are not sufficiently aware of its economic potential.
Our defense expenditures are often too spread out. Our European industry suffers from a lack of common action. Europeans need to work together better in order to spend their resources optimally and pool their research and know-how in the face of international competition. We must encourage all programs-big and small-that are run in cooperation with other member nations and support collaboration between companies.
In this way, we will avoid unnecessary competition and be able to face the existing competition. The European cooperation on the Neuron combat drone goes in this direction. This initiative, which was launched by France two years ago, regroups governments and industries around a major technological project.
We must also increase our investments in future capabilities. In the face of the new threats represented by mass terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we must be able to anticipate risks and have the appropriate technological level needed against those who oppose our values.
The individuals we face are making considerable progress and have already created laboratories that can produce chemical or biological weapons. Against these risks, Europeans must increase their spatial observation and listening capabilities, on top of the capabilities that the United States already enjoy. I intend to emphasize the priority role of the spatial sector with my European counterparts after the successful launch of the Helios II satellite and the upcoming Syracuse III launch. This spatial dimension will also allow us to optimize the action of our forces when they are deployed in faraway theatres.
We have set a global objective for 2010, with a special focus on three main areas that will make it possible to reinforce our ability to act together: interoperability, deployability and the ability to support our forces for extended periods of time. It is essential to add the spatial area to this.
The European Defense Agency is a tool that can help us greatly meet this challenge. With the strong support of European industrialists, it gives a new impulse to the development of European capabilities. It should allow us to promote cooperation for research and programs.
After the initial creation of the Agency in only a few months, its leading team must now transition to a very practical phase prior to year end. With my counterparts, we have chosen several areas of priority for this future work, including drones and the future armored combat vehicles.
The Agency will play an important role in the development of future capabilities. It is the responsibility of each member nation to support it effectively and include it in its own national capability planning.
Defense has become a major element of our common policies, perhaps the fastest and most efficiently-moving one. We must make sure that this still holds true in years to come. You can rest assured that France is totally committed to this. It is what both our partners and public opinion expect from us.
Discussions on the Constitution have shown that Europeans believe in Europe in the defense area. It is our role to make their belief a reality. It is our role to continue the construction of Europe with concrete and visible steps.